COVID-19 support for the tourism sector

Find out what support is available to help tourism and hospitality businesses in the Highlands and Islands

Funding and business support 

For the most up to date information and support relevant to tourism businesses, visit the Find Business Support website.

The site includes information on: preparing to reopen tourism businesses, applying for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19; social distancing – what this mean for your business; business rates (non-domestic rates) changes and extra rates relief; the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme; the job Retention support and deferring VAT and Income Tax payments, and business closures. 

We’ve set out some of the key funding schemes available below, but please ensure you explore the Find Business Support website to see the full range of support available that you could be eligible for.

  • 29 July: £14m Hotel Recovery Programme announced by the Scottish Government. HIE, Scottish Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise will begin taking expressions of interest for the programme in late August. This programme has been welcomed by our chief executive.
  • 29 July: £1m Self Catering support. VisitScotland will deliver £1m in grants to self-catering businesses that have not received any other Scottish Government COVID-19 support. Businesses that apply and meet the criteria will be eligible for a one-off £10,000 grant to support them through the winter season.
  • 15 July: Guidance on travelling within Scotland The majority of Scotland’s tourism sector has started reopening from Wednesday 15 July as further lockdown restrictions were eased. This guidance is for anyone travelling within Scotland. 
  • 10 July: COVID-19 tourism and hospitality sector guidance has been updated (10 July) with details on an "exemption to 1m for hospitality" and a revised PDF checklist. There is also guidance for customers on how the retail experience in shops, tourism and hospitality businesses is changing due to COVID-19 (18 June 2020). VisitScotland also have additional guidance on their website to support businesses that have now opened. 
  • 10 July: Technology solutions for visitor attractions and experiences in a post-COVID-19 Scotland - as part of a project initiated by the Destination Leaders Programme, a small group of experienced tourism professionals have spent the last month looking at how different technologies can help visitor attractions and experiences in Scotland adapt and diversify in a post-COVID-19 world. The outcome of this research is an interactive toolkit, available from VisitScotland's website, to give attractions and experiences inspiration and ideas, as well as recommendations and solutions.
  • Updated 22 July: Register your establishment for the eat out to help out scheme 

    You can use the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme:

    • all day, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 to 31 August 2020
    • to offer a 50% discount, up to a maximum of £10 per person, to diners for food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in
    • to claim the money back from the government

    There is no limit to the number of times customers can use the offer during the period of the scheme. Your customers cannot get a discount for someone who is not eating or drinking. Alcohol and service charges are excluded from the offer. Registration will close on 31 August. Register on

    Update 22 July - you can now register for one of a series of webinars that provides an overview of the scheme, including how the scheme works, eligible establishments, registering and making a claim and what happens after you’ve claimed. The webinar series is running until 31 July.

  • NEW 06 July: VAT - reduced rate for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions - if you’re a VAT registered business, check if you can temporarily reduce the rate of VAT on supplies relating to hospitality, accommodation, or admission to certain attractions.

  • VisitScotland have published guidance on how to start planning to reopen tourism businesses.
  • 10 June: New Scottish Recovery Tourism Taskforce set up further measures have been announced by Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing to support Scotland’s vital tourism industry. It will assist with the ongoing reset of the sector.
  • Local Authorities - coronavirus grants Scottish Local Authorities are managing grants for businesses affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Phase two of the grant scheme is now open - from 05 May 2020, small business rate payers will be eligible for a 100% grant on their first property plus a 75% grant on all subsequent properties.  
  • Bounce Back Loan Scheme Small businesses will be able to apply for quick and easy-to-access loans from 4 May and will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 with the cash arriving within days. Loans will be 100% government backed for lenders, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.

Please also look at our main financial support page for our most up to date list of all UK and Scottish Government support packages. 

Closed funds


Update 25 June: We're Good To Go

VisitScotland Partners with National Tourism Bodies to Launch Industry Standard for UK Tourism.

A new UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark to provide confidence for visitors, communities and tourism businesses alike, as the sector works towards reopening has been launched. 

To obtain the mark businesses must complete a self-assessment online at including a checklist confirming they have put the necessary processes in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing, before receiving certification and the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark for display in their premises and online.

Apply online today

Moment for Change - Get Tourism Ready

VisitScotland has created a useful list of guidance, including what has been issued by the Scottish Government, to help the tourism industry get ready to restart.

Currently, we know that most tourism businesses should plan for either 03 July (self-catering only) or 15 July to resume operations. How you prepare to reopen as part of the route map to recovery is crucially important.

Guidance includes:

  • Scottish Government guidance on the steps to reopen
  • Get Tourism Ready checklist of the main things you should consider
  • Guidance available from sector groups
  • Information on the Good to Go industry standard and consumer mark

Go to

Back to Business Webinar: Restarting the tourism sector

Senior representatives from Business Gateway, HIE, VisitScotland and the Midlothian & Borders Tourism Alliance participated in our 'Restarting the tourism sector' webinar on Wednesday 24 June.

The live discussion looked at what we know so far about how the tourism sector can open up whilst still working within the guidance and restrictions caused by COVID-19. Don't worry if you missed it, the full recording is available below.

Playback webinar

Read more +

National support for tourism and hospitality businesses

We recognise the extreme impact of COVID-19 on businesses operating in and reliant on the tourism sector across our region. We're working closely with the Scottish Government, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and our partner agencies to make sure all businesses impacted are represented as available support is developed.

The Scottish Government continues to develop support packages which are being provided by a range of public agencies, local authorities and partners. Daily updates are also available from the Scottish Tourism Alliance and VisitScotland.

Rebuilding Scotland's tourism industry together

The COVID-19 National Action Plan has been published and continues to be updated as we progress through the different phases of easing out of lockdown. 

The recovery of the crucial £11 billion tourism industry requires a multi-agency approach, working with the tourism industry to help those affected today, tomorrow and in the future.

The Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) has created a single, joined-up, phased plan to not just combat the current issues but also look at how the industry could effectively recover once the lockdown is eased.

The STERG’s immediate priorities are to support businesses by providing information and reassurance; safeguarding employment; and helping them access financial assistance to maintain cashflow and secure a viable future.

Download the action plan from VisitScotland's website

The STERG consists of COSLA, HIE, Skills Development Scotland, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and chaired by VisitScotland.